They can define current scientific understanding and uncertainties, informing future research directions. The primary audiences for these state-of-science reports are the CCSP leadership team and the scientific community.
They can inform policy decisions related to climate and associated global changes.
They can inform operational management decisions at spatial and societal scales influenced by climate and associated global changes, for example the integrated management of a watershed or the operation of societal response mechanisms, such as health alerts and water restrictions.
They can be used to evaluate progress toward program goals and other management objectives. The primary audiences for these progress evaluations are the CCSP leadership team and the Interagency Working Group on Climate Change Science and Technology.
They can be used to inform international assessments, such as the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
An additional benefit of conducting assessments is that they can serve to build and sustain constituencies, educate stakeholders, and build capacity in affected communities, while ensuring that communication channels between the scientific and decision-making communities remain effective avenues for decision support.
The strategic plan explicitly describes considerable synthesis and assessment activity. The revised plan calls for 21 synthesis and assessment products to be produced in either a 0-2 year or a 2-4 year timeframe. The CCSP classified the products as follows (CCSP, 2003, p. 115): nine of these synthesis and assessment products are intended to serve as state-of-the-science reports, five are intended to inform policy decisions, and seven are intended to inform operational management decisions. There are no obvious products devoted to evaluating progress toward program goals, which thereby handicaps the long-term management of the CCSP.
The strategic plan (CCSP, 2003, p. 11) also states that its synthesis and assessment products are intended to fulfill the requirements for synthesis and assessment contained in Section 106 of the 1990 Global Change Research Act (see Appendix D), which specifies that:
On a periodic basis (not less frequently than every 4 years) the Council through the Committee, shall prepare and submit to the President and the Congress an assessment which:
Integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the Program and discusses the scientific uncertainties associated with such findings;
Analyzes the effects of global change on the environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity;
Analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.
All 21 of the synthesis and assessment products in the strategic plan represent efforts to “integrate, evaluate, and interpret” the findings of the program, and therefore appear to fall under the first assessment component of the Global Change Research Act. The committee could not determine that the proposed products also meet the second and third requirements of the Act because the descriptions in the plan are vague in the context of the Global Change Research Act. Even so, it appears that only seven of the synthesis and assessment products are related to the effects of global change. And, some areas specified in the Act, such as
Planning Climate and Global Change Research (NRC, 2003b) Recommendation
The revised plan should strengthen its approach to the human, economic, and ecological dimensions of climate and associated global changes to ensure it supports the research necessary to project and monitor societal and ecosystem impacts, to design adaptation and mitigation strategies, and to understand the costs and benefits of climate change and related response options.
Revisions to the CCSP Strategic Plan
The revised plan identifies “the sensitivity and adaptability of different natural and managed ecosystems and human systems to climate and related global changes” as its fourth overarching goal, appropriately calling attention to these research areas. The plan’s chapters on human contributions and responses to environmental change (Chapter 9) and ecosystems (Chapter 8) are improved over the draft. Integrated assessment analyses discussed in Chapter 11 (Decision Support Resources Development) include impacts modeling of the environment as well as socio-economic systems. Other research activities relevant to economics are only weakly addressed in the plan. Although at least one product addresses mitigation strategies (CCSP, 2003, p. 82), the plan’s overarching goals emphasize adaptation rather than mitigation.